Its just for fun ya know

–Synopsis from the author

Many thanks to Pat for supplying our first Guest Lecture. Enjoy, and listen for the playlist at our next academy ball.

The intent of the survey was to identify the colloquial and canonical wisdom available in the body of traditional popular music on the topic of games in life.

Sources were derived by the Spotify music app search engine term “Game”,  along with Wikipedia disambiguation page for “Games”. Selections were made based upon a proprietary Recognizability and Relevance filter developed over three decades by the American Patrick Corporation (this filter has been nicknamed “R&R” by our associates). 

The bulk of song titles including the word “Game” or some variation have used the term in a metaphorical reference to some common human experience, usually a romantic relationship or a striving for survival in a social community. While some titles include the usage of the word in a straightforward and particular sense, this case appears to be the exception not the rule.

Bryan, Backstreet, and Del Ray have contributed examples of dysfunctional or unsatisfying romantic relationships, configured with the apparent failure or offense being the responsibility of both, one, and the other players in the game. 

Cher, Turner, and Disturbed have shed light on the effect felt by one player when the other fails to play properly by the rules. This mood will precipitate when the dyad destabilizes due to an unfair imbalance in ability or conduct or communication, at times stressing the bond because forces from an Other are allowed to affect play. 

Nas and 2Pac describe a world of trouble and strife in the pursuit of competence and success, not to mention the difficulty encountered in maintaining even a modest existence.

Stevens makes a slightly more literal (although less obvious) comparison between social media platforms and electronic “gaming”. His comment and response is still directed in the negative, asserting that this metaphorical game is not attractive or compelling to him. 

Queen, Swift, and OAR describe, at face value, a positive or hopeful or blameless world in the imperative present, future, and past. Although under the surface one could wonder at the genuine innocence of the players involved. 

Only Troy has contributed what appears to be a truly encouraging message, presumably for the support of a protagonistic montage associated with what is probably an actual played game of basketball.

The primary conclusion drawn from this study of music titles is that the characterization “game” in popular lyrical nomenclature usually indicates that an unhappy stasis has been achieved. By extension, we describe that existence as experienced from within such a game is akin to a living hell, and so the game of life appears to be nominally something to transcend or at least complain about.

We argue that a metaphorical game within the context of an ongoing social discourse should be played in its accepted fashion, by its proper rules, and perhaps even somewhat subliminally by its players. It seems a line is drawn between this mode and that of an explicit, bounded, obvious game of sport. Actual games are played more or less peacefully as their tradition dictates and are sustainably repeatable due to standardized rules. The unnamed games (or renamed games as in “game of life, game of love”) described in this survey of songs are sustainable to the point that their rules are violated, players are fouled, and outcomes begin to spoil, at which point the subconscious equanimity breaks and the previously united state of being is demoted to and consciously called out as a violable and imperfect “game”. 

Paradoxically, once a human relationship takes on the overt description of a game, the game can no longer be played sustainably. 

An obvious critique of the study method could be that the superficial and general search for “game” has largely yielded only those played by no other name. The actual games played or referred to in songs in the study (Particularly Poker and Basketball) are the mildest, most positive, least negative expositions in their affective expression.

A more extensive study of games in music could be performed to review a variety of specific games as referenced explicitly in lyrical text. A still better study would require expert analysis per genre, searching for game-style content latent in song subject matter. 

Following is a list of referenced artists’ song titles each with its own cursory synopsis for the benefit of the reader. 

Luke Bryan – “Games” – An unhealthy relationship

Backstreet Boys – “Quit Playing Games” – Unrequited love

Lana Del Ray – “Video Games” – Unrequited love

Cher – “Games” – Relationship with an unfair Player

Tina Turner – “Game of Love” – when one party cheats in the game, the other will respond in kind

Disturbed – “The Game” – Anger triggered by betrayal 

Nas – “Life is like a Dice Game” – It’s hard out here

2Pac, et al. – “Loyal to the Game” – Better to be faithful to a difficult existence than to forfeit existence

Sufjan Stevens – “Video Game” – Social media has become a notably negative force in society

Queen – “Play the Game” – Be encouraged to join in the fun we’re all having

Taylor Swift, et al. – “End Game” – the Affirmative desire is to achieve success with others 

OAR – “That was a Crazy Game of Poker” – The thrill of a night out drinking

Troy – “Getcha Head in the Game” – Stay focused on the basketball


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